When you are a tourist, you are suddenly in a position where others in the service industry want to assist you. This is wonderful – the point of vacation is to leave your worries back at home!
However, sometimes they will go to great lengths to reassure you. When you are travelling with food allergies, this can make things a bit tricky. Whether it be a chef, tour operator, guide or a friendly local, they may have good intentions when helping you navigate a dish or the local cuisine in general. However it’s important to remember that not only can there be a language barrier, but a general lack of awareness of severity when it comes to food allergies. They may not be as common in that country and you may be one of their first encounters with someone at risk for anaphylaxis.
I remember telling a server at a Cuban resort about my food allergies and received an over confident “yah yah allergies, no problem”. Not feeling fully reassured, I pulled out my Spanish Food Allergy Translation Card and handed it over. She read it in detail and an “ah ha!” look came over her face. She then realized that I had severe food allergies and took the card directly to the chef. I felt immediately reassured.
The service industry’s purpose is to please. Especially if a tip is a possibility. It’s important to not just “go with the flow” and really make sure the person you are dealing with in a foreign country understands your food allergies. Keep in mind, they may have mastered only a few certain “trademark” English lines that they feel comfortable with. Never take a chance with a food until you are 100% certain.
This is certainly not true in all cases! I’ve had countless amazing experiences. But it can happen which is why it’s a helpful tip to keep in the back of your head when traveling with a food allergy. A Food Allergy Translation Card adds another layer to the conversation in their mother tongue. Don’t leave home without it!